21st century data convergence: surf or swim

A Times UK piece, 10 ways data is changing how we live, says that “the availability of new sets of data” is changing the way we live. Five years ago at IC2 Institute in Austin, we were talking about digital convergence, and those talks spun off an organization called the Digital Convergence Initiative, the idea being to build a local business cluster of convergent companies. We were ahead of our time, and it was hard for many to get their heads around how such a “horizontal” cluster would work. We were onto an effect of convergence that could be pretty interesting: the edges of verticals will blur, and companies that before convergence had nothing in common will find affinities and synergies that create new forms of business. The clearest and most obvious example we saw was digital media, i.e. radio, television, music, and film all coming together as data and presented through smart, computer-driven systems. Apple, by understanding this (or maybe it was an accident), has evolved from a somewhat successful niche computer business to a dominant position in the world of digital media. The Mac is as much a media device as a computer, and Ipod is a household word for convergent media. The challenge today is dealing with the abundance of media, and if you produce media, building a reasonable audience for your productions. As I watched the unusually entertaining Emmys last night (and noted the velocity of the related Twitter streams), I realized that the television networks may yet figure out how to recover and build audiences across platforms. I noted knowing social media refernces, and was no way surprised to find the Emmy show available online this morning, especially the opener with Jimmy Fallon and the cast of Glee (et al) performing Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”

I called this post “surf or swim” – thinking of two ways people will take abundant data. Some will surf the waves, others will dive in and go deep with it. Note that I didn’t mention “sink.” I’m an optimist, expecting evolution over implosion.